St. Louis’ Jason Isringausen has blown 10 saves this season, some of ’em spectacularly, and it appears an arthritic hip might be somewhat to blame. In any event, the other National League contenders must be overjoyed to know that Braden Looper might assume closing duties for the Cards.

Decrying the “boorish behavior” of the so-called Greatest Baseball Fans On Planet Earth, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell says it’s time to lay off Isringhausen.

Izzy’s not the enemy, and he’s definitely not worthy of all the mean-spirited, occasionally irrational venom that’s coming his way from so many Redbird fanatics. Isringhausen is a 34-year-old baseball player whose body is breaking down. And in a way he’s a victim of his own foolish athletic pride. Izzy has the sort of pride that causes every real athlete — at least every ultimate pro I’ve ever known or respected — to confuse an athlete’s courage with plain dumb guts. He risked his health for what he believed was the good of his team.

That might seem stupid, but it’s what real athletes do.

Isringhausen is one of the most stand-up guys in that Cardinals clubhouse. He never makes excuses, always takes the blame and is never unafraid to stand in front of a room full of microphones and notepads and admit to his guilt in a bad situation. And he does it with a lot more poise, accountability and dignity than many of the other so-called stars and team leaders in that room.

Philly’s Pat Burrell is in the middle of a 6-year, $50 million contract. With his team in the thick of the Wild Card mix, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury notes Burrell has sat in 14 of the Phillies’ 53 games since the All-Star break.

In need of a righthanded stick to hit behind Howard against Florida last night, Manuel went with 40-year-old Jeff Conine instead of Burrell. Conine started in right, with lefthanded hitting David Dellucci playing left against righthanded pitcher Josh Johnson.

Manuel called it a “day off” for Burrell. The manager referred to Conine’s successful history with Florida – they don’t call him Mr. Marlin for nothing – as part of the reasoning for starting him.

“Conine’s played here a lot,” Manuel said. “I thought he’d be hyped up.”

Like the pinch-hitting move earlier in the week, this was a decision that might not have been pondered if Burrell was producing. But with him hitting .213 with runners on base and taking an alarming number of called third strikes, it was not only pondered, it was implemented. Manuel thought his best chance of winning was with Conine playing over Burrell – and he was right. Conine singled, tripled and homered while driving in three runs in a 14-8 win. Burrell popped up as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.